Mickey Naggar Bourne dies, started Israel program for teens

Mickey Naggar Bourne, a longtime Israel advocate and fixture in the Bay Area Jewish community, died Aug. 20 after a yearlong battle with cancer. She was 61.

Mickey Naggar Bourne

Naggar Bourne was widely known for her warmth, energy and passion for Israel — a love she expressed by helping hundreds of teens travel to the Jewish state over a 17-year career at the Bureau of Jewish Education in San Francisco.

Born in Berkeley on Dec. 27, 1949, Naggar Bourne spent her childhood in Detroit. Her family moved to Israel during her middle-school years, a period that was formative in her later advocacy. The family moved back to California, where Naggar Bourne was confirmed at Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame and attended Mills High School in Millbrae.

After earning her bachelor’s degree from U.C. Berkeley, she received her teaching credential at UCLA and began a career as a reading specialist in the San Mateo-Foster City School District.

In 1980, friends matched her with Jeffrey Bourne after they met the tall Jewish doctor at a party. They told him Mickey looked like Sophia Loren — a frequently made comparison — and he was sold. The two met and were married in November 1982.

Also around 1980, Naggar Bourne’s passion for Israel inspired a career change, and she began working at the BJE. She initiated the Summer Youth in Israel program, and for the next 17 years organized and planned teen trips to Israel. The job earned Naggar Bourne the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s Distinguished Service Award for agency staff member of the year in 1997.

“She touched literally hundreds of teens’ lives with that program,” said Peggy Gluck, a longtime friend and frequent travel companion of Bourne’s. “She did everything she could to instill a love of Judaism and Israel in them, and she really poured her heart and soul into it.”

As daughter Sari Bourne put it, “She was Birthright before Birthright existed.”

Naggar Bourne was known for the fire she brought to everything she did. She was passionate about music, travel and her community — always the one to know everything about everyone. Her close friends included college sorority sisters she’d known for more than 40 years, and she made new friends wherever she went.

“She was a lover of people, and people loved her,” said Sari. “She had this warmth and charm and genuine interest in wanting to know more about you. And her friends were from all walks of life — entrepreneurs, social workers, clothing designers, her hair stylist, the mailman. It didn’t matter whether you had a Ph.D. or you were in high school, young or old. Everyone connected with my mom.”

Naggar Bourne’s brother David Naggar — also an outspoken Israel advocate in San Francisco — echoed the sentiment. “She listened so well, and without judgment, that she put people instantly at ease,” he said. “She made everyone feel important. Even people she barely knew eagerly shared their life stories and took Mickey into their confidence.”

In 1997, Jeffrey’s work took him to New Jersey, and the family followed. Mickey became active on the board of New Jersey Temple Sinai, where she continued to advocate for Israel.

Family was always at the center of her world. “I’ve been looking at these 34 photo albums she labored over,” said Sari. “And I realized 95 percent of the pictures are me and my brothers. They all have these big exclamation points and notes expressing her love and pride. She was that mother: She documented every birthday, [and] she’d force visits on us, even when we were living far away. She had to know what our daily lives were like.”

Even after she got sick, Naggar Bourne continued to travel, last year going to Barcelona with Gluck and both of their husbands. After the friends had traversed the city’s old Jewish quarter, Gluck remembers Bourne going well out of her way to visit a Jewish museum in a tiny town called Girona — and coming back exhilarated, insisting that the others make the trek.

“That was just who she was,” said Gluck. “Always seeking out new experiences, asking questions.”

Those who knew her best say her energy will live on in the countless people whose lives she touched, and that her zest for life will continue to be an inspiration.

“In her kitchen was a piece of art that read ‘Why not a big life?’ ” her brother said. “She certainly lived one.”

Mickey Naggar Bourne is survived by her husband, Jeffrey; children Sari, Josh and Dannie; parents Frankie and Avner Naggar, and siblings Ron, David, Tammy and the late Auri. Graveside services were held Aug. 24 at Gan HaZikaron, Skylawn Memorial Park in San Mateo. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Israel Cancer Research Fund.

Emma Silvers

Emma Silvers is a former J. staff writer.